Featuring our Graduating Seniors: Matt De Ruyter



This is the third in a series featuring the recent OU graduates who are members of the Siler Lab.  In their own words, they will highlight the experiences they had with us as students, volunteers and/or employees.  Begin the series here with Rachel Flanagan.
I started working in Dr. Cameron Siler’s herpetology lab as my honors thesis project my senior year.  While I had no previous experience in herpetology, I was drawn to this lab when I was looking through the descriptions of the various labs in which I could do research.  As a biology major, I was interested in the morphological studies and genetic testing done in this lab.  After meeting with Cameron, I knew it would be a great fit for me. I began with my honors reading during the summer, which Cameron helped me to complete while I was studying abroad in Spain.  After gaining a basic understanding of the projects the lab was focusing on, I began volunteering in the lab every week when I returned to Norman.
I became involved with several projects, including species descriptions, literature reviews, and field work.  Thanks to Cameron’s advice, I applied for and received an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) grant, which funded me to work on projects of my own.  This included a molecular phylogenetic review of the genus Lygosoma for which I presented a poster at Undergraduate Research Day.  The second semester, I also received funding through the Honors Research Assistant Program (HRAP).  Through this program, I was able to go on three trips to Southeastern Oklahoma with Jessa Watters and other members of the lab.  Here we worked in the field, looking for as many species of amphibians and reptiles as we could find.  This was probably the most exciting aspect of my time working in the lab.  Finally, I completed an honors thesis for one of my projects in the lab.  Along with Tucker Walton, another volunteer, I performed a meta-analysis of morphological descriptions of various snake species.  The purpose of this study was to show the inconsistencies and lack of standardization in new snake species descriptions. I presented this thesis in front of Cameron, Jessa, and another member of the Biology department, Dr. Ken Hobson.
I am grateful for my time in the lab because it allowed me to explore a field of study that I had no previous experience in.  I am now in med school, but gaining experience working in a research lab provided me valuable skills I can still use in future lab work.  Most importantly, I am thankful for the friends that I made during the course of this year.  I had a great time working with and getting to know Cameron, Jessa, and all the other members of the lab.  It was a great experience.
As of late July 2015, Matt is enrolled at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, located in Kansas City, KS.  We wish him lots of luck in the future, even if it isn’t in herpetology 🙂
 Continue reading about our recently graduated OU seniors here.